History has been made on the 3rd of June 2018, as some Filipinos embarked on the first ever “Rizal in London” guided walk tour, pioneered by the Knights of Rizal and Ladies for Rizal Incorporated – London Chapter UK. Led by the Chapter Commander Sir Elija Villanueva, KCR and Chapter Archivist Sir Junart Nieva, KOR, the almost 3-hour stroll started from Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street, passing through Regent’s Park, and ended in the topmost part of Primrose Hill.
Members, family, friends, educators and students who joined were blessed with a sunny day. Regent’s Park, one of London’s Eight Royal Parks, were teeming with people enjoying the sunshine. June is also a great time to go exploring when flowers are in full bloom but with lesser pollen count compared to Springtime. Formerly known as Marylebone Park, this ‘jewel in the crown’ (famous for the open-air theatre and as the base of ZSL London Zoo) public space has an area of 395 acres. The ramblers had a chance to know bits and bobs about it while learning about Rizal’s adventures while in London.
Passing through the lower ground of Primrose Hill, the group headed towards 37 Chalcot Crescent, where Rizal had stayed. A blue plaque was placed in the house by the Greater London Council, which reads, “Dr Jose Rizal 1861-1896: Writer and National Hero of the Philippines Lived Here”. How proud it is to have this kind of marker in London, which serves as a sign of high regard of the British community to Filipinos! The group took time to take photos albeit discreetly, as it is a residential area. The sickle moon-shaped street is recognized as well for being a film location for Paddington Bear movie.
“As a Filipino born in another country, it is amazing to learn about Rizal’s time in London and to retrace his steps,” says Jason Malipol, a graphics designer. “To see his London residence was quite surreal, and the commemorative blue plaque that is on display there indicates that he was truly a remarkable individual.” Jason currently studies Filipino language through London Filipino Centre, a community interest company headed by Sir Ric Patriarca, KOR, a Rizalian Knight himself and currently chairs the education committee.
“Pettie”, Rizal’s British nickname, was given by Gertrude Beckett, daughter of his landlord in that house. These two had a brief romance before Rizal realized it cannot endure because he still had a mission in life he needed to fulfil. His love for the motherland obviously triumphed over personal feelings.
The nearby Primrose Hill Library also has the memorial “Rizal Garden” as a tribute to the national hero dubbed ‘pearl of a man’. That title was accorded to him by Dr Reinhold Rost, a German orientalist and friend to Blumentritt, currently working in India Office in London at that time. He helped Rizal gain access to a restricted section in the Reading Room of the then British Library, now British Museum, so he could study and annotate the book Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas by Antonio Morga. This is one of the primary reasons why he went to the UK in the first place; not to visit the Queen!
Just as some thought it was the end of the tour, the knights and ladies armed with Philippine flags led the way back to Primrose Hill, this time going up the summit. There, another first, the Philippine national anthem “Lupang Hinirang” was sung led by local Filipino singers Ela Hidalgo and Gee Luengo, while flags naturally waved due to the breeze on top of the hill. Overlooking the city of London on a clear sky, the overseas patriots sang with all their heart, singing proudly and enthusiastically. This another historical event was done to commemorate National Flag Days (Executive Order No. 179 May 24, 1994 by then President Fidel Ramos). Since the park is so close to Pettie’s lodge, it can be inferred this used to be his “tambayan” back then, where he ‘conversed with the spiritual sun’. Who knows?
The activity, in accordance with the Order’s by-laws and constitution, was conceptualized by the Area Commander for United Kingdom Sir Alfonso Taguiang, KGOR, and his wife, Lady Aurea Taguiang, president of Kababaihang Rizalista Inc.– London Chapter UK. The walk was held as part of the 130th commemoration of Rizal’s arrival and stay in the British capital back in 1888. A milestone indeed! This is also to further honour the Philippine-British connection, and make people appreciate more the relationship between the occidental and oriental countries. For more information, read “Pearl of A Man: Rizal with Overcoat” article on www.lonfilcenter.co.uk.